Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Superstar Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ahhhh, pumpkin cookies. If Asian marinated Chilean Sea bass with papaya salsa and risotto is my signature dish, then my pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies must be my signature cookies. These are easy to make, amazing and perfect for fall. I made a batch of 40 cookies on Wednesday night, most of which were gone by Friday night. Everyone who ate one wished they had another! And another. This is my favorite fall baking recipe - I have been making these with my mom since I was a kid. We always made them big and decorated them to have faces using various cake icings, so they are really perfect to make with kids. This year, I just made them regular size and plain, which was delicious too. I'm really getting into pumpkin. I plan on making a salad with pumpkin and pears, pumpkin gingerbread ice cream, and pumpkin panna cotta in the coming weeks. It's really the signature food of fall! The oatmeal is the key to these cookies - it adds such a lovely texture!

Sasha's Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 sticks butter
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

To make these cookies, combine the flour, oats, salt, cinnamon and baking soda in a mixing bowl and set aside. Beat the butter and both sugars in your stand mixer for several minutes, until smooth. Add the pumpkin puree, egg and vanilla to the sugar/butter mixture and combine. At this point, the mixture may look slightly curdled. Don't worry about it. Add the dry ingredients to the mixture, until combined into a cookie dough, and follow by mixing in the chocolate chips.

Line several baking sheets and spray with PAM. Preheat the oven to 350. To make medium sized cookies (the recipe makes about 40), use a tablespoon to make each cookie and drop on the sheets, spaced apart. Bake each sheet, one at a time, for 15 minutes. If you make them larger, like I said above, kids will have a great time decorating them to make pumpkin faces or jack-o-lanterns.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Homemade Pickles, White House Style

I think it's wonderful that there is a kitchen garden at the White House that is committed to organic produce. I live in Brooklyn, and don't have my own garden, but my political leanings and passion for food keep me as an avid reader of the Obama Foodarama blog.  I am also a big fan of Bill Yosses, the acclaimed White House pastry chef, so I was excited to read his recipe for pickling vegetables from the White House kitchen garden. What fun! I modified this recipe to try my own recipe for making picked cucumbers (rather than other vegetables) for a more traditional pickle. They were great, especially for a first try! I was never a fan of pickles at all growing up - in fact I didn't start eating them until last year, but my husband, a longtime pickle fan, was quite impressed.

Sasha's Homemade Pickles (based on Bill Yosses' White House Recipe for pickled vegetables)
4 cups of water
2 cups white wine vinegar
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
12 stems thyme
12 stems rosemary
1/2 to 1 tsp of red pepper flakes
1 clove of garlic, whole
one purple onion, cut into slices
10 farmers' market or homegrown kirby cucumbers, cut into pieces

To prepare the pickles, combine the water, vinegar, herbs, garlic, onion, sugar and salt to a large pot. Bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat, and add the kirby cucumbers to the pot. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hrs.

To can the pickles - use conventional sized Mason jars. They need to be sterilized. I used half size Mason jars because that's what I found in a pinch at the local hardware store. Sterilize the jars by dipping them with tongs in boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute. Fill the jars with the marinated pickles and solution. Simmer the jars in a pot halfway filled with hot water for about 12 minutes to sterilize the pickles.  Store in a cool, dark place for four weeks to one year.

My friend Amasea who posts on this blog from time to time in Sun Valley, Idaho has her own garden and has her own fabulous recipe for pickles which I hope she'll share in the future.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Osso Buco

For my most recent braised meat dish, I decided to make some osso buco California-style. This is another cookbook review recipe, which I found in Tyler Florence's new cookbook,  which I received as a guest at the ShopRite blog panel welcome dinner (and got my copy signed by Tyler Florence).

Anyhow, this dish is a traditional Osso buco, which also incorporates elements of california cuisine. The idea of topping wine-braied veal with a kumquat-cranberry gremolata is a bit unusual and takes some getting used to. But it is really terrific, and much to my surprise, it was a great complement to the dish.  I confess that I don't really care for kumquats (I don't like eating the skin, which is how you eat a kumquat), so I substituted clementines.  Thus, with my various adaptions, below is the recipe that I used to create this California-style osso buco.

Tyler Florence's California Osso Buco with Tangerine Cranberry Gremolata (adapted by Sasha)
1 cup flour
4 2 inch pieces of veal shank
extra virgin olive oil (I omitted using any butter with this dish)
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks (diced)
zest of one lemon
6 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 bottle California Zinfandel (or Brunello, Cabernet Sauvignon)
2 cups low sodium beef broth
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes

1/4 cups pine nuts
1 cup clementine or tangerine slices
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 T chopped parsley

Coat the veal with flour and season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a Dutch Oven, and add the veal shanks, searing on all sides. Set veal aside.

In the same pot, add the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, bay leaves, lemon zest and parsley. Cook for about 15 minutes. Then, nestle the veal shanks back into the pot and add the bottle of wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the wine reduces by half.  Add the beef broth and the tomatoes. Cover the Dutch Oven and transfer into an oven heated to 375. Cook for 1.5 hours, then uncover the pot and cook for another half hour. The braised veal should be very tender, and fall off the bones.

To make the gremolata, toast and puree the pine nuts in a food processor. Fold in the clementines, garlic, cranberries and parsley.  Serve on top of the braised osso buco, in a bowl.
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